Beyond Bonn, Why Not Just Skip COP16 & Focus on 2011 in South Africa?


Warm weather in Cancun might be nice in November, but do we all need to go? Photo: Michael Strande via flickr.

So the first round of post-Copenhagen climate talks concluded last weekend in Bonn, Germany and where are we? European-based news media headlines focused on the 'slim' prospects for a climate deal; the activist community talks of the same old divisions marring discussions, and Reuters talks of "gloom for treaty" in 2010. So why not just skip COP16, have more less high-profile meetings throughout the next eighteen months and all head to South Africa in 2011? I'm being somewhat facetious (there are procedural issues at stake...), but only somewhat. Think about the lesser environmental impact of literally thousands of news media, NGOs and expanded national delegations all jetting off to Cancun late this November.

As appealing as that might be to those of us in the northern hemisphere with fall ending and colder weather starting to grip us, let's face it, if the big Mexican show isn't going to yield the fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty hoped for, why not call the whole thing off and do some lower-profile work instead that helps reach that goal. It's the greener thing to do.

But let's back up.


Members of Germanwatch, WWF, and Oxfam (all TckTckTck partners) dumped a four ton pile of broken glass outside the climate talks in Bonn last weekend to send the message "that it's time to pick up the broken pieces of the international climate accord and get back to work." Photo: Simone Ackermann/Germanwatch via TckTckTck.
North-South Divide as Deep as Ever
Perhaps the demonstration above is too obvious, but that's where we're at. As The Guardian points out,

The United States seems to be the only country that still sees the Copenhagen Accord as having a life of its own. Almost all the rest, including countries that have "associated" themselves with the Accord have insisted that the UNFCCC remains the only agreed decision-making forum.

Which, combined with the US 'no climate aid for you' if you don't go along with the Accord--even though that stance seems as much the result of non-climate politics towards Bolivia, et al. as much as anything else--really doesn't do much to bridge the developed-developing nation split that was an overarching theme of COP15.

If the US/European-based media were a bit more circumspect in their framing of the weekend's events, The Times of India was more blunt: "G-77 foils US-EU bid to spike Kyoto" the headline reads:

The climate of distrust between developed and developing countries, that marked the Copenhagen conference, intensified during the first round of climate talks in Bonn.

Industrialized countries sought to move away from a two-track negotiating process to a content-based process which would cut across the Kyoto Protocol and Bali tracks of negotiations.

This was seen as an attempt to do away with the Kyoto Protocol and make Copenhagen Accord the basis for future negotiations. Developing countries stood off this attempt, describing it as undemocratic and inadequate.

Distrust and suspicion clearly remain. Environmental News Service (via TckTckTck:

The United States and China disagreed over whether to write a new draft negotiating text this year as proposed by South Korea. Chinese delegate Su Wei said a basis for work already exists in a previous text, but the U.S. delegate Jonathan Pershing said that text has over 100 pages of bracketed clauses, which denote disputed text. [...] Developing country delegates in Bonn generally view the Copenhagen Accord as "a secret text put together by a selected few," in the words of Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaking for the Africa Group.

Nothing's new under the sun it seems.

Acknowledgement of Historical Responsibility & Real Emission Reductions Needed
It may be a non-starter in terms of getting a US climate bill passed, but it really seems to me that a big part of bridging the North-South divide that is still very much alive and well--despite India and China signing onto the Copenhagen Accord--is the developed world acknowledging the bulk of historical responsibility for this problem and making meaningful emission reduction targets.

It just doesn't send the right message when nations like Canada backtrack on their emissions reduction pledges, bringing them in line with the pitiful proposed US stance of 17% below 2005 levels and earning a "Fossil of the Day" award--which is a 3-4% reduction below the more normal 1990 baseline and in Canada's case means an actual emissions increase of 3% above 1990 levels by 2020.

More Meetings in 2010 a Start... Let's Hope They're Put to Good Use
The good news is that two additional meetings in 2010 were agreed to, beyond the already scheduled Bonn v2 meeting in June, though the dates and locations are TBD. It's something at least.

Perhaps understating things a bit, Greenpeace's Wendell Trio said, "It has been a difficult process. We have agreement on a minimum program. It's a start but not an extremely good start."

Quotes by the UN's outgoing (even if not for some months) Yvo de Boer were equally as blunt. "I don't think Cancun will provide the final outcome. I think Cancun can agree an operational architecture [sic] but turning that into a treaty, if that is the decision, will take more time beyond Mexico."

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More on Global Climate Change:
No Climate Aid For You! US Won't Help Those Nations Opposed to Copenhagen Accord
Leaked Confidential Document Reveals Obama's Climate Strategy
New UN Talks in Bonn to Lay Out 2010 Climate Agenda

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Solutions | United Nations